Moving to Chicago for the summer, I was ready to put the post-hardcore and punk behind me and just delve into some shy town garage rock. Then I accidentally ended up at a Coffin Pricks show. While Coffin Pricks’ have more pop sensibility that prevents them from being thrown under the standard post-hardcore umbrella, the quartet’s rapid beats and bleeding guitar riffs along with Chris Thomson's stylized shout-singing speaks to the group’s rich history that has traversed decades of punk, hardcore, tropical jazz, and state lines.
Formed from the remains of acts like Circus Lupus, Euphone, and Ottowa, Coffin Pricks brings extensive experience to their debut EP Group Home Haircut and it’s heard in their crisply layered tracks and melodies. The surprisingly multi-faceted guitar work is perhaps a lingering result of guitarist Ryan Weinstein’s time in Euphone, known for their jazzy stop-and-go rhythm and sliding guitar solos. While songs like the title track tend more to the tenacious side of punk rock than soothing dub infusion, there is a positive playfulness in the song’s opening guitar release, something that is often missed in the all too serious world of post-hardcore and aspects of the present punk scene.
After a few seconds of the straight guitar work of “Group Home Haircut”, Jeff Rice’s speedy drum emerges alongside Thomson vocals that maintain a balance throughout the song of singing and controlled yelling. At first listen, the catchy “Group Home Haircut” appears to be a fairly standard addition to the punk canon. Yet, I’m continually drawn back for additional plays, making me rethink my original assessment.
Maybe it's the pastiche – just as there is a refreshing playfulness to their melodies and name, Coffin Pricks also offer a relaxed ease while hitting major and minor points of rock's musical canon from the past 40 years. Their EP works as an unabashed appreciation of past musical styling incorporating sounds from the 1970s and onwards, hitting everything from the 1980s art rock of New York City to DC’s everlasting hardcore sound. Weinstein’s guitar work offers a complexity that recalls '70s and '80s basic and at times art-rock, while Thomson’s lilting yell works as a homage to the hardcore DC sound he was involved with while in Circus Lupus.
The second track “Right Kind of Loot” begins with the smallest snippet of sickening guitar feedback that wail evokes a hint of Sonic Youth’s mid period before reversing everything on its head with the ingress of a very kicky drum beat. “Right Kind of Loot” feels a bit too similar at first to “Group Home Haircut” due to a comparable guitar riff. The vocals are allowed more breathing room than on “Group Home Haircut” but it feels like the first two seconds of the track’s stinging guitar might have been it’s best part.
Coffin Pricks display a diverse nature to their composition and given Weinstein’s past work, I can only imagine that a brief dive into some weird guitar creations would result in stimulating material. “Right Kind of Loot” does work well as a highlight Thomson’s strong voice, his ability to add a melodic aspect to his shout singing style allows for a layer of pop awareness, especially in the chorus of “then it fades/turns gray/rolls away.”
Closing off the three song EP is the forcefully insistent “Cielo Drive”, showcasing a deathful fast paced aggression not yet heard on the album. Rice’s drums are center stage with a deep tribal pounding that shakes away the earlier poppy rollicking drums. Gone are their high hat hits, and this death beat that echoes in your chest sounds fresh. “Cielo Drive” matches snark with fast paced looseness that pushes it as front winner for my favorite track off of Group Home Haircut. The assertive instrumentals intercut with Thomson’s cheeky vocals bring forth those old teenage feelings of excitement upon discovering a band that allows you to get lost in their outpouring of aggression. Given the amount of enthusiastically shaking heads and shoulders I saw at their Subterranean show, I’d say Chicago agrees that Coffin Pricks is best at their loosest and hardest.
Coffin Pricks debut EP Group Home Haircut is available now off of Stationary (Heart) Records.